West Virginia coal billionaire, philanthropist dies in helicopter crash
In this Sept. 6, 2014 photo, Chris Cline speaks as Marshall University dedicates the new indoor practice facility as the Chris Cline Athletic Complex in Huntington, W.Va.{ } (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The Latest on a helicopter crash that killed seven people in the Bahamas (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

One of the victims of the helicopter crash that killed West Virginia coal magnate Chris Cline has been identified as Brittney Layne Searson.

The 21-year-old Searson was a friend of Cline's daughter, Kameron, who also died in the crash off Grand Cay Island.

The Searson family issued a statement Saturday asking for privacy and expressing how their hearts have been "shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter." She had just graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in kinesiology.

She is survived by her mother, Kimberly; her father, Wayne; and a brother, Shane.

All seven people aboard the Augusta AW139 helicopter were killed when it crashed Thursday en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday.


CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WCHS) - Police in the Bahamas say the bodies of seven Americans in a downed helicopter have been taken to the capital in Nassau to be officially identified.

Police superintendent Shanta Knowles said they responded to a missing aircraft report from Florida, and were told that billionaire Chris Cline and a group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale. Cline, a billionaire coal tycoon, has been major donor to Republican politicians.

Cline is a native of Beckley and a former Marshall University and also known for his philanthropy, donating to both Marshall and West Virginia University. 

“The entire Marshall community is in disbelief and shock over the sad news of this tragic accident that took the life of a prominent Son of Marshall and so many others. Our hearts are heavy. Chris’s generosity to our research and athletics programs has made a mark on Marshall University and our students for many years to come. I am praying for his family," Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said in a news release. 

Cline donated $5 million to Marshall to establish an endowment to support new faculty and students in the school's sports medicine program. 

He later donated $3.5 million to the Vision Campaign, which was the first major fundraising effort undertaken by Marshall University Athletics and the Big Green Scholarship Foundation. 

“Chris Cline was a true Son of Marshall. He was not only a personal friend of mine, he was a friend of Marshall and Marshall Athletics. With the naming of our Chris Cline Athletic Complex to honor his generosity, his dedication to our university and our student-athletics will live on. He was so proud of the complex and was so excited the day we dedicated it. I sure know Marshall University Athletics will miss Chris, as will I. He was a vital part of our athletics family," Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. 

In recognition of his generosity, Marshall dedicated the Christ Cline Athletic Center in 2014. 

When asked at the dedication about the roots of his generosity, Cline said, "It's your home state, it's your family, it's what you grew up with. You learn that these people are your family, no matter where you move to in life afterwards. So, everybody in this state contributed to me getting started and making it in life and I'll probably never be able to pay them back."

Hamrick said David Jude, who was Cline's pilot, was also killed in the crash. Jude was from the Kermit area. 

Knowles said information was preliminary and subject to change, but she did not believe there had been a distress call from the aircraft.

She said she believed that the helicopter was still in the water.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Multiple news outlets are reporting that Chris Cline was killed a helicopter crash.

Cline was a native of West Virginia, growing up in Beckley, and a coal billionaire.

Multiple sources report the helicopter was en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida from the Bahamas when it crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. The Register Herald is reporting that six others were killed.

Governor Jim Justice tweeted Thursday night. "Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend. Our families go back to the beginning of the Cline empire - Pioneer Fuel. Chris Cline built an empire and on every occasion was always there to give. What a wonderful, loving, and giving man."

Cline was also known for his philanthropy, donating to both Marshall and West Virginia University.

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